How Long Should Your Novel Be?

I’ve written about this some years ago, but I ran across a great article detailing the history of novel lengths by Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve also praised the work and website of Dean Wesley Smith so check out his article here.

With the source being acknowledged, I would also like to add my two cents about novel lengths. In this new world of publishing digitally I feel that novels don’t need to be the lengths that you find in the brick and mortar. The reason being is you really have no reference of length from device to device. All you have is the speed of the reader. Sure, there are stories that are extremely short, but I am referring to a written story that has the intent of being a novel not a short story. In a way it is all about perception. “Am I getting my monies worth when I buy this book?” And for the publisher it was all about that…how they are going to justify the novel price. We as consumers also feel that we want more for our money. Am I going to buy this 300 page fantasy, or this 700 page fantasy adventure? More, in most cases, is better when we are holding it in our hands and our eyes are drawn to the magical art work on the cover. This, as Dean Wesley Smith pointed out, caused the story to suffer as the publisher would cause the writer to fill space in order to meet the word quota.

Now I’m not suggesting or saying that long novels are bad, but what I am saying is that a 40K word novel can be just as good as a 100K novel, and we as writers should not allow the old way of thinking guide us to writing a story that isn’t as good because of all the word padding. Dean lists in his article a number of novels that were around 40K words that would not have been published if they were held to the modern publisher demands. I never imagined that some of those stories were indeed so short! It just proves to show that it’s all about substance and not quantity.

Michael A. Stackpole has also written about this in his past posts and he laid out a brilliant pricing structure to help the buyer/reader understand what value they were purchasing. This is not his exact structure, but for the sake of this post: 5-20K word story might be .99cents. 20K-50K might be 1.99$, and it would scale up that way to any story over 100K would be 5.99$. Now this was just an example, the beauty of self publishing is you have the full control of what you price your work. However, the patron has a feel of what value they are buying when they purchase a story. They can expect a lower cost to match the quantity. Value, however can have no price, as no word limit can equate to the quality of a story. There are plenty of good and bad stories out there at all price ranges.

Pricing structure has been blogged about by many authors and there are many ways suggested to work out a price for a novel, but I must add that many authors (Indie Authors), in my opinion, have ruined it for the rest of us. Too many novels for .99 or 1.99$! I’ve also written about this in the past. Sure a good story will rise to the top, but most of us, if we are honest browse Smashwords, or Kindle bookstore and look for ratings and price to determine if a buy is worth our money. Established authors from the old publishing have an established following, if they were successful, and many are willing to pay the 6.99 or higher for their work because we love that writers stories. I do this with Terry Brooks. But if I were to come across my name on Amazon and see Dark Moon Shadow for the same price I might not buy it due to the unknown aspect. I don’t blame anyone who would do the same because I am also hesitant to spend a higher price for an unknown. But what has happened is that many of us unknowns need to get noticed so we low ball our price as a way to get someone to take a chance on our work, and what we really have done is establish a new mark for unknowns. Unknown Indie Authors are now 1-2$ products unless we can justify a higher mark with a ton of 4 to 5 star ratings. Way to go Indie community!

I bring this up to say a good pricing structure helps set a great standard for everyone, and allows us to break away from the low to high word bondage and just focus on good story writing no mater the length.

Star rating is a whole different topic I will tackle soon. So stay tuned.

Check out my short stories for YA, and my short Paranormal stories in my bookstore and maybe take a gamble on my Fantasy novel Dark Moon Shadow.

Happy Reading my friends.

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PENNERSTORIES NEWS

DARK MOON SHADOW edit is complete, and I am in the works of applying changes. Once I make the changes I will begin the format and testing process for E-book delivery. I am targeting an early MAY 2014 release. Stay tuned for that!

In the meantime I’ve been working on a prelude to the Dark Moon Shadow novel. It will be a Four Chapter short story introduction to wet your appetite for the series. This FREE E-book will be titled: PROTECTORS of the REALM. I plan to release this free e-book on the same day as Dark Moon Shadow. This work is nearly complete and ready for edit.

Until then, keep checking back here for news and updates, and tell all your friends and family about my new fantasy series starting with Dark Moon Shadow!

Free Short Novel

I am giving away my paranormal short novel The Unwrapped Gift with the Bright Red Bow to anyone who replies by midnight tonight Pacific Coast Time. It’s easy! All you need to do is send me a valid email address to penstories@sbcglobal.net by midnight Pacific Coast Time and I will reply with a coupon code valid until Saturday June 22nd. This coupon is good only on Smashwords.com.

Thanks for playing…and happy reading.

Short Stories

Wow! I feel like its been an eternity since I made my last post after taking all my short stories and novels off-line for upgrades. Upgrades…a soft way of saying they needed a stronger edit. Ehem, I feel and hope that any error has been corrected or at least they are fewer and farther between. As usual life has gotten in the way of my regular twitter following/ posting, and blogging but I am hopeful that in the coming days and month I will be writing again and adding to my collection of stories.

Dark Moon Shadows (my fantasy novel) has been stuck in thought all this time and is dying to get finished. I can’t wait to help this novel reach maturity. My new aim will be for it to be completed by the end of the summer months. Stay tuned as I will be posting my progress. I also look forward to meeting and following new writers and bloggers for whom I will also share links to their pages and writings. This is my way of spreading the word and helping Indie Authors.

Since my favorite podcast and ebook news source The Dragon Page Cover to Cover passed away into airwaves abyss, I will do my best to find and pass along new pearls of wisdom I learn and pick up across the amazing net.

All my short novels sell for $1.50 and have links to them in the bookstore.

Thanks for all your support and I look forward to conversing with you all again very soon.

Happy Reading!

Kindle Select Program…is it worth it?

It’s been several months since Amazon opened Kindle Select publishing. The pot of shared monies varies each month. In this program you can share part of the money based on how much your book is borrowed and shared. To be eligible for this program you must make your book exclusive to Amazon for one-quarter at a time and the first week or so you make the book free. I’ve seen a lot of authors tweeting and trying to drum up support for their books in the Kindle Select Program.  I won’t pretend to know more about the program than that. When I heard some talk about the program at first I rejected it and still do. But after listening to a podcast earlier today about it my eye’s opened a bit on seeing the other side of the coin about it.

I’m of the crowd that you should not offer your e-books, or any other book for that matter, for free. We authors are in the business of writing to make money for our labor and creativity. We, I hope, would love to support our living with the earnings we make off of our imagination. This is a hard feat in itself and giving your work away for free defeats that purpose and hurts other independent authors as well. Now there are many sides to the story here, and I do understand that some give their material away for free in order to gain momentum and in the end earn a greater profit. I have yet to experience this. Even if that says my writing “sucks” the only thing that happens when I offered any of my books for free was people downloading MANY of my e-books…for free. Never did I gain or experience a spike in sales after this. Case in point…Smashwords has Read an E-Book Month in March every year and I participated in it with free novels. Many were sold…after March no one came back and paid me for those downloads nor did their word of mouth lead to sales spikes. My experience is free does not drum up greater sales.

Back to Kindle Select. Why would any of us chose to give Amazon exclusive control? Does not Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Diesel, Apple, and others have readers willing to buy your story? I heard the case that since Amazon holds over 80% of the e-book market the other 20% is really not that significant. I look at it this way. Why not utilize every part of the market? Amazon Kindle is great and I applaud them for being what they are…a great business. I totally see and agree that they would try to crush their competitors and gain as much if not all the market they can. I don’t hate them, actually I love them. I enjoy having my e-books for sale on Kindle and will continue to do so, but why give them full control?

Why did the e-book revolution start? Was it just because of portable reading devices? No, not at all (although we need those to read e-books). Traditional publishing fueled the fire for the revolution. Poor royalty rates, short shelf lives, bad contracts, and the general disrespect for the author is what they did to start the revolution. E-book technology has empowered the Indie author to gain access into publishing where we would never have a chance with the traditional publishing houses. No more for the elite, we are now able to swim with the big fish and carve out a path of our own choosing.

Hypothetically, if we give Amazon exclusive control (let’s say all of us go to Kindle Select) and the other distributors go under Amazon will ultimately become what traditional publishing was. Why? Because there would be no competition and if they dropped their royalty rates from 70% back down to 35% or below we would have nowhere to go unless we start another publishing company to rival. I personally don’t think this would happen, but I am a little stunned by the amount of Indie authors running to give their work away for free and become exclusive to one company. It is truly your choice as a writer/author, but think about the other avenues to get your work out there for purchase.

One way to play with Kindle Select is cycle one book in and out of it at a time exclusively if you think that would give you more exposure.

Ebook’s and Social Media

I read an interesting blog the other day about social media and the relationship between the sale of ebooks. I won’t bore you with all the findings, but the truth of the matter is massive tweeting, facebooking, and whatever media doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference in sales. The stats were pretty clear that that was true. I can back that up with my own experience in ebook promotion. When I first started writing with regularity almost ten years ago, I was told that the best way to get noticed was to just keep writing. After I completed my first and only full length novel to date, I then began writing short stories in a few different genres to build up inventory. I produced a short story ready for publish about every two months. I know, that seems a little slow, but hey I work full time so shoot me. Ok, don’t shoot me, but you get the idea. Once I felt I had enough inventory to hold me while I write my next novel, I bought into the idea of self promotion. Keep in mind that during the whole time, even until now, I still self promote using social media.

At first my sales were modest and consistent while I put one ebook up and then the next and the next. Each time I added an ebook I promoted it and then wrote another one. My sales were steady the entire time. Just incase you are wondering, I am not rich, nor did I make a serious amount of money with these ebook sales. My sales are really dismal to say the least, but I am satisfied that people are buying my works. Every time I promoted anyone of my ebooks via twitter, facebook, or gather I would only get a few hits on my website or blog post. I cannot really attribute any of those visits to actual sales. Most of my sales are from Kobo and I really have no idea why. Amazon was steady and now is extremely slow, Smashwords is the same (Although they are the medium that Kobo has my material), and Barns and Nobles was rocking for a time and now it’s like watching grass grow. Seriously, grass is growing on my ebooks at B&N. CreateSpace where my novel is available in paper back has never had a purchase other than my own purchases for promotional give away. My conclusion is that all my tweets, status updates, and gather posts have resulted in little or no sales. What really created sales was a little bit of luck by shoppers searching for a good read, and the fact that I was actively putting out new material. I still don’t know how that works. I am virtually an unknown author; no one knows who I am, and yet I had modest sale spikes on most of all my works when I kept putting up new works every other month. My favorite blog site is by Dean Wesley Smith and he preaches this topic all the time. The best promotion you can ever do is keep writing and putting out new material. I made a case on another post about authors with pervious publishing experience has a head start in the digital world because of their traditional notoriety. Dean makes his case that his name has nothing to do with it because many of his writings are under pen names where no one knows that it is him behind the writing. It would be interesting if the pen names he writes digitally under where ever published traditionally prior. I believe him though, so I would contribute that to the “luck” category. As I press on with my second novel I am perplexed at how to market this book as every other digital author asks for their own work. I really don’t want to rely on “luck” but so far that’s all that it is. Another author site I frequent claims that if your writing is good enough it will sell. I agree with that, but I think you still need that “luck” factor to get enough of word of mouth to sell a great deal of books.

Bottom line…don’t spend too much time on social media to push your ebooks because it falls mostly on deaf ears.

Great writers advice

Many of us writers, beginners, and the ones who hope to be can never get enough advice and professional opinion about our craft. I’ve been seriously writing for only six years and because I didn’t pay great attention in school I struggle with the grammar and spelling side of the art (thank God for editors and the internet.) Over the last several years I discovered a podcast that deals with writing and ebooks that has not only inspired me, but gives great writing tips and instruction. The podcast is called The Dragon Page cover to cover, www.dragonpage.com Here Mike and Mike (not the espn guys) are going through a series from start to finish on composing a novel and converting into an ebook for self publication. Download the podcast and get your learn on!

Another advice book I recently discovered in the form of a PDF download is “Novel Blogging”. I myself am trying to learn how to blog more efficiently so I can entertain as well as keep you all apprised as to how my writing is doing. Liberty Montano is the author of this wealth of information. The cost is a little pricey, but well worth the knowledge in contains. I think it’s a must buy. If you are serious about your writing I suggest you get a copy at www.libertysyarn.com .

Well, off for my morning walk and plenty of writing thoughts to drum up!

Rob